MLB Sports

MLB Free Agency: Relief Pitching Market


Welcome to the ninth and final installment of INSC’s MLB Free Agency Positional Breakdown! To wrap things up we will be taking a closer look at this year’s crop of free agent relief pitchers. We will be taking a look at the list of names, what they bring to the table, where they could end up and which teams could be looking for relief pitching help.

So in order for us to get into any sort of analysis, we are going to need a list of upcoming free agents. It just so happens that mlbtraderumors.com formulates such a list every season. If you would like to access their full list of upcoming free agents, you can take a look right here. From that full list, here are the relief pitchers who are poised to be free agents at the conclusion of this season’s World Series!

Right-Handed Relievers (Italics denote active closers)


Matt Albers (34) — $3MM club option with a $250K buyout
Andrew Bailey (33)
Matt Belisle (37)
Joaquin Benoit (39)
Joe Blanton (36)
Blaine Boyer (35)
Santiago Casilla (36)
Joba Chamberlain (31)
Jesse Chavez (33)
Wade Davis (31) — $10MM club option with a $2.5MM buyout
Scott Feldman (34)
Neftali Feliz (29)
Jason Grilli (40) — $3MM club option with a $250K buyout
David Hernandez (32)
Luke Hochevar (33) — $7MM mutual option with a $500K buyout
Greg Holland (31)
Daniel Hudson (30)
Tommy Hunter (30)
Edwin Jackson (33)
Kenley Jansen (29)
Kevin Jepsen (32)
Mark Melancon (32)
Bryan Morris (30)
Peter Moylan (38)
Pat Neshek (36) — $6.5MM club option with a $500K buyout
Bud Norris (32)
Ross Ohlendorf (34)
Jonathan Papelbon (36)
Yusmeiro Petit (32) — $3MM club option with a $500K buyout
Fernando Rodney (40) — floating $2MM+ club option with a $400K buyout
Fernando Rodriguez (33)
Sergio Romo (34)
Fernando Salas (32)
Chris Smith (36)
Joe Smith (33)
Drew Storen (29)
Junichi Tazawa (31)
Carlos Torres (34)
Jacob Turner (26)
Koji Uehara (42)
Ryan Vogelsong (39)
Jordan Walden (29) — $5.25MM club option with a $250K buyout
Chien-Ming Wang (37)
Ryan Webb (31)
Brad Ziegler (37)

Left-Handed Relievers (Italics denote active closers)

Brett Cecil (30)
Aroldis Chapman (29)
Felix Doubront (29)
Mike Dunn (32)
Dana Eveland (33)
Boone Logan (32)
Javier Lopez (39)
Eric O’Flaherty (32)
Marc Rzepczynski (31)
Matt Thornton (40)
Travis Wood (30)

Now if you were intrigued by a handful of names as you read through them, you are not alone. This is going to be the hottest market this winter, with three All-Stars who can certainly make an immediate impact with any team they sign with. And for the teams who miss out on those guys, there are still plenty of options, including a guy who used to be the best closer in baseball, and missed all of 2016 because of Tommy John Surgery.

[embedit snippet=”kenny-ads”]

The first big name is the one of a man who throws harder than anyone in baseball. Aroldis Chapman is currently throwing bullets in a Chicago Cubs uniform, and the club gave up a ton to acquire him from the New York Yankees in July (Meaning no qualifying offer). The flamethrower saved 36 of 39, struck out 90 in 58 innings and had a 1.55 ERA and 0.86 WHIP. So if the Cubs want to retain him, and they surely will try, it will cost them a pretty penny. The Yankees are expected to be involved. Look for teams like the Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants to be in the mix as well.

Next on the list is a dominant arm who is opposing Chapman in the NLCS. That would be Kenley Jansen, who is the same age as Chapman, and has equally impressive numbers. He saved 47 of 53, struck out 104 in 68 and two third innings, all while having a 1.83 ERA and an outstanding 0.67 WHIP. One key difference is the fact that Jansen can receive a qualifying offer, meaning anyone who signs him will have to give up a draft pick, which they do not have to do for Chapman. Teams who value each man equally will lean towards Chapman for that reason, but Jansen is still going to get paid. And paid nicely. The Dodgers will look to bring him aboard, and I expect their rivals the Giants will make a very strong push. The Nationals, Cubs (if they fail to bring back Chapman), and possibly the Blue Jays could get involved among others.

To wrap up the big three, we have a guy who is a couple years older than Aroldis and Kenley. Mark Melancon is coming off a season split between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals. That trade frees him from the whole qualifying offer dilemma like Chapman, boosting his value a bit. Also helping his value is the fact that he saved 47 of 51, struck out 65 in 52 innings and had a 1.64 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. He has been one of the best closers the past three seasons, saving 131 of of 141 in that span. That type of consistency is what a team wants at the back end of their pen, and Melancon is a terrific choice for clubs if they pass on the other big two. The Nats will obviously look to bring him aboard, with the same list of teams in on the others involved here as well. He may come a little cheaper given he is slightly older, and does not throw as hard as the other guys, meaning a few extra teams, like the Mariners and maybe even the Angels, could get involved.

The name that could be sneaky good is Greg Holland. Holland was released by the Kansas City Royals last winter as he was not going to be healthy enough to pitch thanks to Tommy John Surgery. But he is only a few seasons removed from being a top three closer, and considered the best during that time by many. He is entering his age 31 season, so he is still in his prime as well. Even while pitching hurt in 2015, he saved 32 of 37, which followed up two seasons of 45 plus saves. He should come much cheaper than the others given he did not pitch last season, so expect a larger market for him. The Atlanta Braves, who are looking to make a splash entering a new ballpark, could be a sneaky sleeper for his services. He is expected to be ready for Spring Training when it rolls around, and he is certainly a name to watch this offseason.

Another former top closer is not going to be quite as attractive this offseason. Jonathan Papelbon’s best years are behind him, and as he enters his age 36 season, teams are not likely to chase after him and his antics. He has established himself as a problem child in the clubhouse, and his declining performance is not likely to land him a closers role unless it is with it is with a team that is not set to compete. And those type of rebuilding teams would not be wise to add someone with Papelbons’ type of attitude to a young club.

Fernando Rodney finds himself in a similar situation as Paps. Given his struggles after being acquired by the Marlins, the fish are not expected to pick up his option (You can read about that here). He did save 25 of 28 on the season, but his 1.39 WHIP, tendency to walk people and 3.44 are not ideal for a closer. He has been on four teams the last two seasons, and will likely be looking at joining a team in a set-up capacity. Unless he can find a team like the Padres, who were willing to make him their closer last offseason. Maybe a team like the Brewers, Rockies or the Padres again will be willing to roll the dice with a cheaper option like Rodney.

Another interesting name who could be available is Wade Davis. But it is not going to be as a free agent. The Royals will exercise his option. But Davis is set to draw some trade interest. Given the Royals are looking to shave payroll and shake things up, Davis could be on the move. You can read more about Davis being available here.

The rest of the market has some more names with closing experience. Guys like Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Brad Zeigler, Andrew Bailey, Brett Cecil, Drew Storen and Dan Hudson are some of those names who have closed out games in the past. This is the winter to help reshape a bullpen. And there are plenty of teams in need of a closer, or simply getting a new look bullpen. The Giants in particular are said to be looking to have a totally new pen in 2017. The Cubs, Dodgers and Nationals are all going to be in need of a closer. The Yankees are expected to dabble in the market. Teams like the Braves, Phillies, Brewers, Angels, Mariners, Jays, Rockies and Padres are just a handful of clubs who could be looking to upgrade their pens and closers.

Well this concludes our Positional Breakdown Series, as we have covered every position! If you would like to read up on any other positions free agent market, you can check them out at these links: Catcher, First Base, Second Base, Third Base, Short Stop, Outfield, Designated Hitter, Starting Pitcher. Be sure to check back here at INSC throughout the winter, as we will be bringing you plenty of offseason MLB coverage! From trades, to signings, to analysis and predictions, we have


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]